As a family of 6 (soon to be 7) we get a lot of questions about how we manage to make things work financially. And, to be honest, it’s not always easy! Saving my family money, wherever and whenever possible has always been a priority of mine. It started before we even had kids and continues today. A few things have really helped our family financially over the past few years and I’d like to share those with you today.
Sit down and write out how much money you have coming in each month. Then write down your must-pay bills (like mortgage/rent, car payments, insurance, electric, etc.). Once you have those listed, take a look at what’s left over. From that amount, set aside a reasonable amount for your food budget. After that, everything else (yes, that includes Netflix and cable) is just an extra. You have to decide which of those extras are worth the money you are spending each month. If there are some you can do without, try cutting them to see if you can live without them for a month or two. You might be surprised!
Most of all, just make a budget and stick to it! One of the budgeting methods we like is the envelope budget system and Dave Ramsey. There are many ways of budgeting though, just find one that you will stay accountable to and stick to it! Make sure you budget money for savings too, even if it’s just a little bit each month. Budgeting has made a huge difference in saving my family money each month! If it’s not in the budget, we just don’t get it or we save up for it.
This might seem like a no-brainer to some people, but coupons have saved our family a lot of money over the years and shouldn’t be ignored. Admittedly, since our budget isn’t as tight now as it was in the past, I don’t use them as frequently as I once did, but I still use them as much as possible. It’s easier than ever these days because many apps provide you with coupons that can be scanned at the register. I love using Flipp app for that! I once took a grocery bill that was in the $130 range down to about $11 and some change! That’s not always going to happen of course, but if you get serious about coupons, they truly can save you hundreds of dollars every year.
Clipping coupons (or saving them to your phone) is just one of the ways you can make money from home, in your pajamas.
Kids Eat Free (or for less) Nights
Like any family, we still like to go out to eat sometimes. Kids Eat Free nights are some of our favorites to take advantage of! Some of the restaurants we frequent for deals are:
- Denny’s has Kids Eat Free Nights in our area on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 6-8pm. For every adult entree you purchase you can get up to TWO kids meals for free. This is the best deal we’ve found as far as discounts on kids meals.
- Buffalo Wild Wings has kid’s night on Wednesdays, where the meals are priced at just $1.99 each with the purchase of a kid’s entree.
- Olive Garden, while it doesn’t have a set night, frequently sends out coupons for $1 kid’s meals with the purchase of an adult entree. You just need to make sure you are signed up for their email newsletter that goes out.
These specials on kids meals have been a big help in saving my family money when we want to go out to eat or are traveling!
Other Dining Out Tips
Besides utilizing the Kids Eat Free/Discounted nights, there are a few other things we take advantage of when we go out to eat, to maximize our savings. First, we always order water, for everyone. Purchasing drinks for 6 people could easily add $20 or more to a bill, just with beverages alone. Stick with water! Not only is it cheaper, it’s the healthiest option too! If you’d like a little bit more flavor, as for lemon to add to it.
My kids can seldom finish off a whole kid’s meal, especially if we are eating at a place that offers freebies at the table before we eat (you know, like breadsticks at Olive Garden, chips at a Mexican restaurant, etc.). Rather than letting each of my children order their own kid’s meal, we either order 2 kid’s meals to split between them or one main adult entree to split between them. Even with ordering less, we still usually take home leftovers for them. I also have a tendency to fill up on the “freebies” included with a meal (like the never-ending salad and breadsticks at Olive Garden) and then have a large portion of my main entree to take home and eat for a second meal later.
Lastly, pay attention to specials that happen during certain times of the day. Sometimes we will go out for a late lunch/early dinner before the lunch specials end (sometimes it’s good until 3pm). It’s usually the same size portions at a savings of about 30%!
Traveling with a big family can get expensive for sure, but there are still ways to save money! When staying at a hotel, we always look for one with a continental breakfast. This easily saves us $30 at least on a meal. Once we get to our destination we try to rent a house or condo. Not only is the price generally not much more than a hotel, having a kitchen or kitchenette that allows us to prepare more meals “at home” instead of eating out the whole vacation saves us hundreds of dollars!
You can also get these portable bunk beds to save money on the number of beds you need. While they do cost a little bit upfront, after using them for just a few trips they pay for themselves. Plus, they have come in handy for us when the kids spend the night at a relative’s house. You could also go for individual cots, like the Joovy Footcot.
We almost always drive instead of flying because the costs to check baggage and pay for seats for so many people is quite a bit. Plus, we’d have to rent a van once we got to our destination and deal with flying car seats. It’s just much easier these days to drive, even if it takes an extra day of travel.
Lastly, sometimes saving my family money means we don’t take a vacation that year, or we just do a staycation to save money. For example, we planned to go to the beach this past October but then over the summer Jacob broke his arm. That resulted in thousands of dollars in medical bills. We would have loved to have taken a vacation, but it wasn’t worth it to go into debt to do it. Instead, we stayed home and found ways to have fun together locally.
We’ve tried very hard to minimize our debt. While we do use credit cards (because we rack up points for cash back) we pay them off each month to avoid any interest fees. If you currently have debt, working on slowly paying it down without adding anything new to it. Cut out something you are splurging on each month and put it towards your debt instead.
When it comes to clothes for my kids, I’m all about the hand-me-downs! We save all of the clothes that my oldest girl and boy wear that are still in good shape for their younger siblings to wear. We also gladly accept hand-me-downs from friends and relatives. This has saved us hundreds of dollars on clothing costs for our kids over the years.
Cloth Diapers & Wipes
Diapering a baby is SO expensive….and you are just throwing all of that money literally into the garbage. I started cloth diapering with my first baby and it has saved us thousands of dollars over the years. Although there are times we do use disposable diapers (like for traveling or overnight), using cloth diapers for at least some of the baby years has been great for our family! My personal favorite when it comes to cloth diapers are bumGenius Elemental diapers. They are so easy to use and well made too!
Lastly, I can’t overlook what I’m doing right now! Blogging has been a great way for me to contribute to my family’s income. I’m able to do it from home, around our schedules, homeschooling, vacations, etc. Of course, you have to enjoy writing for blogging to be an option for you! It’s definitely not something you’ll see immediate income from but if you stick to it, eventually you can make some extra money for your family by maintaining a blog. Here are the first steps to starting a blog, if you’re interested in pursuing that for your family.